On Feb. 17, 38 high school students from 13 high schools throughout the province will gather at Memorial University’s Faculty of Medicine for the largest Brain Storm competition ever held in Newfoundland and Labrador. The winner will go on compete in the International Brain Bee competition in Baltimore, MD, March 16-17.
The competition is organized by the local chapter of the Society for Neuroscience at Memorial. It has been held since 2000, when Dr. John McLean, a neuroscientist in the Faculty of Medicine, began to volunteer his time to get local high school students excited about the brain. It has grown from the initial competition in which there were only seven students from two high schools to this year’s province-wide event.
Graduate students in neuroscience are a tremendous source of help each year and Dr. McLean credits their energy and encouragement in keeping the competition going. The competition targets high school students because they are at the point of thinking about careers, explained Dr. McLean. "We think the study of the brain is a wonderful career choice and this competition lets us talk to high school students about some areas of research and career possibilities in the neurosciences."
The competition begins this Saturday at 10 a.m. with each student given three chances to get a wrong answer before elimination. “The students will pass in a card after each incorrect answer and will be eliminated when the third card is passed in,” explained graduate neuroscience student Matthew Grimes, who is helping to organize this year’s event. “At the time when 10 students remain in the competition, we will take a break during which students will visit some of the neuroscience research labs in the medical school.”
In the second part of the competition, all 10 students will write down answers at the same time. After all the questions are given, the answers will be marked by judges. The top three students will then compete in the final stage, in which all three get three cards again, with each student writing down the answer after each question. If the student gets a wrong answer, he/she passes in a card. The student is eliminated when he/she has no card remaining.
The Brain Storm competition is structured like a spelling bee, except instead of studying a dictionary, students study the newly published booklet Brain Facts: A primer on the brain and nervous system, produced by the Society for Neuroscience. Students study the booklet and then participate in a live question-and-answer competition to test their knowledge of the brain and nervous system. For example, the students are quizzed about how the brain relates to intelligence, memory, emotions, sensations, movement, stress, aging, sleep and brain disorders.
In addition to the Brain Storm Competition, the local chapter of the Society for Neuroscience is organizing a Brain Art Competition in March during Brain Awareness week starting March 12. Efforts are being made to involve students from schools throughout the province.
Support for the Brain Storm Competition is provided by Memorial University, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Janssen Ortho Pharmaceuticals.